Being mindful of your behaviour on the bus

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Photo by Luke Sarazin

Riding the city bus can be quite a harrowing experience, despite it being such an arbitrary necessity of my everyday life.

As a student who has no car, I rely on the public transportation system to take me back and forth from my home in Kitchener, to school in Waterloo. I’ve regularly ridden the bus since I was a teenager and there is one unshakable aspect of it that stands the test of time: the people.

Understanding basic etiquette while riding the bus shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp. Yet, I have countless stories that revolve around other passengers making me uncomfortable.

Being followed home after I’ve stepped off the bus is another occurrence that’s happened more than once. Holding my keys in a sweaty hand while my phone is gripped in the other ready to call 911, is frightening, to say the least. 

Just when I feel like I’ve seen all there is to see within the confines of an otherwise harmless space a man twice my age sits behind me and strokes my hair. I turn around with a “what the fuck” expression plastered across my face. He produces a Cheshire cat grin in response, clearly proud of his obvious creepiness.

A guy slides next to me, talking a mile a minute despite my awkward silence, until he removes my glasses from my face and tries them on. In his words, “these looked nice on you, so I thought I’d try them myself.”

As she passes by me, a middle-aged woman makes a loud comment about my “slutty” shorts, despite the thirty-degree heat outside.

Coming home from a late class on a nearly empty bus, a man who looks like a walking mug-shot pointedly stares at me. His lip curls in obvious delight over my discomfort, saying lewd things in my direction every few stops for good measure.

These are the moments that stand out to me, ones that I wish were rare, but have been compiled into a seemingly never-ending list. They range from mere annoyance, to flat out concern over my safety and what could happen if they didn’t lose their disgusting interest in me.

Instances like this are so common that I see them happening to other people around me as well. A person reading a stranger’s texts over their shoulder, a guy bothering a girl who is clearly disinterested in his advances, a loud-mouthed blowhard who thinks it’s their God-given right to make judgments about everyone around them.

I am not at all against friendly, mutual chit-chat with someone who is non-threatening. A little old lady who gives me a genuine compliment, a passing comment about the weather, or a baby grinning at me from their stroller are always acceptable forms of communication in my books.

It’s when these interactions are distinctly divided, malicious or unnecessary, that I have no tolerance for them. I have no idea how or why someone would incessantly pester another person when they clearly do not want to talk, they’re reading a book, or have headphones on.

Picking up on social cues that indicate an unwillingness to engage in conversation should be respected. If you miss these initial indicative hints of disinterest, and someone explicitly tells you to leave them alone, listen to them.

Harassment shouldn’t be a fear that sits in the back of my mind whenever I want to go somewhere, but it’s a relentless aspect that can go hand-in-hand with public transportation.

Being followed home after I’ve stepped off the bus is another occurrence that’s happened more than once. Holding my keys in a sweaty hand while my phone is gripped in the other ready to call 911, is frightening, to say the least. 
 
Riding the bus should be simple, harmless and frankly, boring. It shouldn’t feel like stepping inside a circus tent with Pennywise the clown lurking on the other side. 

As a general rule, play it safe. Don’t take a gamble with your next lay on a person half your age or make it your goal to make someone else feel uncomfortable. When in doubt, just don’t be an asshole and you’ll make the commute better for everyone there because of it.

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